Search and recovery diving for the course had to search for a pot of gold and use a lift bag to return it to the surface. We did not find it so Giel made a make shift one from his weights on his belt, to move things along. As we came up to his makeshift pot of gold he started pointing at his ass! This was perplexing to me, I could see he wanted something but was not sure what... Vig was also confused.

The look in Giel's eyes said it all, you could see the word idiots tattooed into the whites of his eyes. Vig finally figured out he was pointing at his weight belt not his rear end and extra weights were exchanged. Found the real pot of gold finally when we were ascending, Hooray!

Giel recons the object of our search had been moved by some joker, I want to stand by my navigation skills so I will not argue the point!
Deep dive today, started with preparations of a descent line and drop line & some knot tying. Learned  some of these knots as a boy scout a lot forgotten already!

In the briefing Giel adds a lvl of complexity to the ok sign; He is to give an OK + 1 for example and at depth we are to return his signal + 1 so OK 1 returns OK 2, OK 3 returns OK 4 and so on. When at the bottom around 38 meters Giel gives the signs and I would have sworn black and blue that he gave me the signal OK 2-3 so I returned OK 4-5. After seeing this he starts signaling again as he thinks I might have Nitrogen narcosis. After a few more symbols he seems happy enough that we can continue. If I think back I think I was a little narked, putting my thumb and forefinger together for the OK symbol felt a little tricky, like I had to think to put them together and they were slow and clumsy to respond. Interestingly its not like being drunk you don't feel it coming and you don't realise when it arrives. Or maybe just like the 1st time I drank screwdrivers on a booze cruise? Didn't see that coming either!

Nitrogen Narcosis Definition for non divers:
Nutella or Strawbery Jam for example is very popular with Dive Instructors. Drop a pot on the dive boat and watch the feeding frenzy. Want some croissant with your jam? Honestly I did not know a croissant can hold that much it almost defies the laws of Physics!
Diving with Candy, a discover scuba diver and a scuba diver. Scuba diver I did not mention before it is someone who did not complete the whole open water course but was able to dive and show the skills.

Our scuba diver is pretty confident and already quite good just has a tendancy to swim up a bit and has not perfected his buoyancy. The French lady doing Discover scuba diving  is not comfortable at all, Candy is holding her through the whole diver. Still a nice dive along the wall of Phi Phi Bida Nok. I am leading but not leading with Candy as she is moving ahead the whole time. I will learn why on the next dive.

Dive number two Candy is leading while I help the French Girl,  as we start diving I try to encourage her to relax but she does not stop kicking the whole time. This is why Candy was surging ahead in the last dive. I have to control buoyancy and direction for both of us the whole dive. I tried to let her swim a little on her own but she does not have the lvl of skill to control herself. Its still a nice dive, we really find a lot. Swimming octopus, moray eel, mantis shrimp, and a turtle! The only drawback is I have to stay switched on the whole dive controlling our buoyancy.

Practiced my non-existent french skills today, "je ma pal James." my effort earned me a smile from a pretty girl and a death stare from her boy friend. Seriously I am not like dive instructor Adonys or anything. Anyway it wasn't just me. The guy was like a helicopter hovering around her he never left  a one meter circumference. OK non diving related, but the mating habits of both fish and people are equally interesting!

Like mashed potato? Like Bacon? Then put it on a pizza!

I am hooked this place down the road from me called Pizzeria Da Moreno makes this heavenly pizza called the Montonara. Spoons of mashed potato dolloped sporadically and baconbaconbacon! I meant to take a picture of the whole pizza but got distracted till the last succulent slice! Some credit to Gerry who discovered this little gem.
More skills practice, all I am going to say is that I need to practice this more, its easy to miss small things. I am breaking the habit’s formed over a hundred dives.

My fencing coach Simon once told me you need to do something 100 times to learn it properly, to unlearn relearn you need to do it a thousand times. (Yes Simon I did listen sometimes!)

One dive from the beach mapping again with Vig, all I want to say is trying to make a map is hard. The question should I use all the tools available to me? I am thinking I can probably see the outline of the reef from Google earth. Easier than counting kick cycles and taking bearings on a compass, Cheating?


Fish Window


A three-dive day today, the hardened professionals are not to enthusiastic about extra diving. I just want to dive!

As instructed I have been preparing my dive briefing the night before for the dive site Koh Doc Mai or flower Island. Mostly prepared, but I pester the boss with a few questions about the dive site, current which way should we go etc. My greeting to the questions, “We’ll have a look when we get there.” OK OK I guess I should just chill out.

 We are dropped to the north of the small island and head anti-clockwise around the wall, navigation wise this dive is not too difficult. Just follow the wall around with the island on the left. I am leading this dive with Giel following me again not to much warning about this!(His philosophy on this is a kind of sink or swim theory if I am thinking too much before the dive I would probably pepper him with questions and over think the whole process).

My young friend from yesterday is diving well again but was feeling a bit sick before the dive so I remind myself to keep an eye on him. His certified depth limit is 21 meters & Giel reminds me we do not have to go that deep. We follow the wall round slowly looking stuff. The mother has a little challenge with her buoyancy and I help her to adjust she was deflating instead of inflating as we went down and found she could not get off the bottom. We pump the BCD a little and I remind her with hand signals breath in go up breath out go down. Then we continue and she is pretty good with her buoyancy after that.

As the dive progresses we slowly ascend following the sweeping underwater cliff around, towards the end of the dive I get the signal from My Junior advanced dive buddy that he is feeling not well in the stomach. We are getting close to the surface time to end the dive anyway. I indicate a safety stop and we hover at five meters for three minutes and surface under an SMB at the southern tip of the island.

Don’t want to talk too much about the next two dives Sean was just feeling sick maybe a little food poisoning and did not dive for the rest of the day. So unlucky King Cruiser a passenger ferry that sunk here is a beautiful dive site I am limited to a shallow dive max 20m  but the top part of this wreck is gorgeous and the visibility is great I just dive with the one lady and Giel stays on the boat(Yes on my own!). We follow the mooring line down and and swim around the top of the wreck surrounded by schools of fusiliers. One image is stuck in my head, swimming slowly through a school of fish they suddenly part forming a fish wondow outlining a huge black and white striped lion fish on the top of the wreck. Really I need to get a camera and a housing! Enough about this dive you have to see this for yourself.

The last dive shark point I am on my own again leading Sean’s mother another great dive, we descend and zigzag around the pinnacle slowly ascending and turning back when we round the point and find strong current.

I think the less warning theory of Giel’s is not too bad, better just do it. Safely back on the boat two more successfully lead dives!


Driving not diving


Everything goes slow on the sleepy island of Phuket until you get behind the wheel of a steering wheel. Bikes overtaking cars over taking other cars is the norm, Going up hill rounding a corner? Overtaking no problem. For the oncoming driver the rule of  thumb if you see someone overtaking is, any guesses? Accelerate!

Did some training with Boris today he had a open water course, a french lady who had completed her theory in online elearning form and just needed to complete the skills in the pool. The verbal instruction was in french but even so Boris' teaching is quite clear from his underwater signals, another good trainer. Each instructor has a little bit of a different style and way to instruct. Boris emphasizes buoyancy more than some which is something I like and would encourage in students if I am ever to teach. Common mistake for beginners to go up and down or try to use their BCD to control going up and down and over compensating, its really more for fine adjustment as you descend or ascend. Controlling your breathing is what really keeps you gliding level through the water you get better with practice. Boris' reinforcement on this really helps the new open water trainee to feel a bit comfortable swimming around in the pool. Picked up a few little tricks watching today things that are not necessarily in the manual but make life easier.

Alas I was planning some photo's of the skills practice but when in the pool disaster struck, my camera flooded! To Olympus I say BOO!!! Not that bad really the camera is 3 years old, maybe the rubber seals had worn out a little over time. I can see water behind the display so I know its 100% dead.

Then in the afternoon came a Junior Open Water Advanced certified diver, young boy from Australia about 14years old. After a pre-dive safety check and a buddy check (BWRAF Buoyancy, Weight, Releases, Air and  Final Check Mask/Fins/everything tucked in) we head down to the beach. As we walk out I am just looking at my young friends SPG gauge dangling down when Giel decides to impose a beer fine for not getting that tucked in, 1st beer fine! I'm sure I will owe a few more by the end of the course; luckily we only count the ones he sees other wise I will end up just purchasing a keg!

This is my 1st time leading someone younger so of course I feel just a little nervous,  but Giel is also around. As we go down of course the 1st thing my young friend wants to go is take his camera out so I indicate wait a minute we swim 1st as there is not much to see where we went down. I learned the other day that cameras and inexperienced divers are not working well together so I ask him to follow 1st to see how he goes. Giel intervenes a couple times on direction during the dive he knows the site better than I do and points me in the right direction. I am reminded(Or Giel reminded me) of some skills that I learned in the open water course but have not really used much. Following the contours in the sand and watching the depth  and visual references is quite useful. This site lends itself to that type of navigation as opposed to using a compass. Which is still good for making your way back in a relatively straight line but not so great following the reef.

All went well I probably checked his air too often out of caution and eye can't say my route over the reef was perfect but it was a nice dive none the less & my young dive buddy  went from quiet before the dive to my best friend and chatter box after the dive. He's coming back tomorrow on the boat diving with his mother another certified diver. One more tip from Giel: dive with a predictable plan following straight lines or following the reef.

For counting the total number of dives its generally accepted you don't log anything less the 6meters for 20minutes. Today I had a dive like that. We started in the morning doing some more theory, yawn! Yeah I know its important, that doesn't mean I can get through it without a little caffeine. Starting to get used to the dive tables again which I have not used for a few years since I bought a dive computer; They are a little tricky if you don't use them often.

After that Vig and I head out for a mapping project, we have to make a map of a dive site so we head out hoping to find points of interest and visual markers to start to make a map of the site. There is a bit of a swell coming in and though its nothing compared to the surf I am used to in Australia it doesn't make getting in with all the dive clobber easier, with just Vig and no beginners we have no problems today though.

Once we are out past the break and have a quick chat about our mapping plan we descend, there is really no visibility. The waves have stirred things up and if I look back I can just make out my own fins! We start to head out but after about five minutes Vig indicates that visibility is bad, lets go up. I sort of want to continue and see how we go but Vig wins the sign language argument but concedes to my point that we swim back under water for a bit rather than surfacing right away, its easier to swim under water. Sue me I'm lazy!